David Archuleta has a big decision to make. Will he release his next album as an independent artist, or shop around for a record label? During a recent telephone interview, the American Idol season 7 alum talked about new music, his current tour and time spent as a teenaged contestant on American Idol in 2008. In the past two years, the singer has released a full length album, Postcards in the Sky and a holiday set, Winter in the Air as an independent artist. But what comes next? New music, for sure. Read on for more.
You just started a new tour. How is the way you approach touring changed. Is there anything new fans can expect this time around?
I feel like I found how to keep energy flowing in the show while still being very real to myself. It feels good. I feel like I found a balance–I have old material I can mix with the new material as well as covers. I like to tell stories in my shows. It’s not something I did at the beginning. My goal is that people have a great time. But also feel lifted with a little motivation to keep going forward in life.
Postcards in the Sky had very deep personal themes. Will your upcoming work be as personal?
I think so. I think I’ll try to have more fun. I want to try some more fresh sounding stuff–I didn’t really care to do that on Postcards. Whatever the song is saying, that’s the direction that it will go. I’m not going to worry about “is this radio enough?” With the new material I’m doing–it’s still kind of that same thing–it is what it is. But I’m trying to add more fresh elements to it.
I heard a snip of the new song called “Paralyzed.” And it almost had kind of an Imagine Dragons kind of feel to it. Sort of a harder edge musically. Are you going in a harder direction?
“Paralyzed” definitely has some more umph to it. I don’t know if that’s all the music is going to be. I’m more pop. I’m not a rock band like Imagine Dragons is. I wanted [the music] to convey the frustration of what’s being said in the lyrics. That’s just how it came out.
Giving the song a harder edge to fit the lyrics.
It was actually more vice versa. My friend Nate is a producer of this new song. We hung out a bit, so he knew my story. He brought some song ideas and showed me a few. That was the one [Paralyzed] I connected with the most. I had another friend of mine, Isabeau [Miller], who I wrote several songs with on the Postcards in the Sky album. The three of us wrote it together. There are several songs on Postcards that she really helped with getting my feelings across. There’s a song called “Spotlight Down” that means a lot to me. Another called “Up All Night” Another one called “Shine the Light.” She knows what I’m trying to accomplish. They know I have a hard time making decisions. It’s not stopping myself when opportunities come. I’m afraid of what could happen, even if it’s good. A lot of times I’ll hold myself back. Something good could happen, I’m still scared so I just freeze. I’m like “Why do I do that? Why on earth do I keep doing that?” I get really frustrated with myself. This new song portrays that process.
What has he learned about himself since his last album?
With the Postcards album, I realized that people actually connect with the message, with scenarios that I was actually going through. I was afraid–I had ingrained so much in my head as a teenager that songs needed to be about relationships. I had never been in a relationship as a teenager. I felt so disconnected all the time. At the same time–this is what sells the most. This is what’s going to boost your career.
For my own music, I asked “What’s my story?” because obviously my story is not a relationship, because I had never been in one. Even when I was making Postcards in the Sky, I’d never been in a relationship. What do I have to say? What have I gone through? I had just gotten back from an [LDS] Mission and I had so many different things on my mind. It was still ingrained in my head–if it’s not relationships, love songs or party songs, they are probably not going to do as well. I thought “is anyone going to care about what I’m going to write about?” But I felt like–If I’m not authentic about what I’m doing with music, what’s the point of doing it? You want a career and you want to make a living. But as a creator and as an artist, and an expressive sensitive person, I needed to be authentic, or else there is no value in it.
And so [releasing music on my own terms and discovering] “wow people actually connect with this.” It was so relieving that I could actually be myself. I can be real with the topics I think about day to day. People will still listen and connect to it. I felt a confidence boost with that. Now that I’m older–I’m in my late 20s now–I’m not in the same place I was as a teenager. I have more to talk about. I’ve been in relationships. That will [be a topic] now. But I think it’s still going to be more about life and how to improve. Because I feel like I’m on this journey of self-improvement. I’m always looking to discover who am I and how can I be the best.
You’re working on new music now. When is your next album coming out?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Because I released Postcards in the Sky independently–it was my first time releasing something as an independent artist–I saw a lot of the pluses. I had a lot of the freedom I needed to discover myself by releasing it independently. But I saw a lot that was missing in a launch without the normal set up that you have with a record label team. I did a Christmas album and I was able to fill in more of the missing pieces –getting a distribution company, getting a proper PR person–having the right team players to make something become what it really needs to be. I’m debating whether I should shop around to record labels or if I should do it independently. If I do it independently, I could release it faster. But if I want to keep building around it, and maybe shop around, and get new team players–if I have a contract I’ve negotiated [the release] might not come until the beginning of next year. Regardless, I will release new songs by summer. That’s the intent behind singing a new song over the spring tour. I’m really excited about some of these songs I’ve written. I feel like it’s my new theme. I want to start singing these songs live. I want to start sharing them with people, because I’m excited. When I feel excited about something I don’t really want to wait! I want to get this out now.
Will you be singing more new songs during the Spring tour?
We’ll see. I definitely want to release a song or two over the next few months. Because I don’t have a label saying “this is the date that it’s going to be released” I have to be on top of it. So I want the song out by this date? I have to start five weeks before [to prepare]. I have to take this seriously business wise too. I have to be good at planning–which is something I’m not very good at (laughs). I think I’m going to be sticking to one song. I’ve got a good mix of music right now. I feel like the show has flowed pretty well so far.
Would you have still pursued a career as a singer if you had not auditioned for American Idol, or gotten cut early?
I would have. At the time I knew I wanted to do music. I didn’t know how I wanted to be involved. I loved singing. I knew I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable in front of people all the time. When I was in high school I figured maybe I’d do something behind the scenes (laughs). I feel like American Idol helped push me where I needed to be. If singing is your favorite thing about music, but you don’t want to be in front of people, how is that going to work? I feel like American Idol forced me. It wasn’t just a one time thing. It was months of cameras, photo shoots, music videos—everything else going on. It forced me to be OK out of my comfort zone.
I would have taken it a lot more slow. In high school I was just “I know how to sing. That’s it. I don’t know the business side of it.” A few months before signing a record contract–even a month before, I didn’t know if [singing] was what I wanted to do all my life. I didn’t know if I understood enough of the business side or If I was willing to do the business side of what it takes to be a recording artist. But it was too late for that at the end of the show. Because I signed a contract and I had a record deal. It was activated if they wanted it. And they did! I just had to do it.
But I’m glad I did because–it’s exactly what my song “Paralyzed” is about. Even if something is good. I will still stop. And I usually wait long enough until the opportunity passes. I take a long time to do things, because I’m indecisive, I’m unsure of myself. I don’t know if it’s the right thing. And then the opportunity is gone. I feel like American Idol was a necessity. It didn’t give me time to think. It’s not like I really ever had time to think. It was “go go go go” and literally like a year later I realized what had just happened. Wait a second–I’m actually a recording artist and I’m actually touring and I actually have a fan base! It wasn’t until a year later that it actually hit me. I guess that I’m a slow thinker (laughs).
Correction: Isabelle is actually Isabeau Miller